Monday, March 23, 2009

The Real Problem With Pain

There is an old philosophical conundrum known as the problem of pain. It is that with an all-powerful, all-knowing, all-benevolent god, why does evil exist? The argument is old and so many have fought it on one side or the other. God created free will because it's good and free will created evil, but God being all-knowing would have known that creating free will would create pain and couldn't he have made a world where free will wasn't necessary? I don’t mean to rehash the entire argument here because this isn’t really about the philosophical argument of the problem of pain. I discussed this problem pain in am earlier blog post some years ago soon after hurricane Katrina hit the gulf coast. It was one of my most memorable posts because I got so many angry res ponces about it at the time. It’s called Devil’s advocate.

I literally was arguing the case against God. Thousands die and millions lost their homes are you telling me somehow free will caused this sort off suffering? Free will may explain why people murder babies in their cribs, but how does it explain hurricanes? Mostly what you'll get a “shit happens” response. Or the ugly but inevitable “they deserved it” The arguments of the problem of pain are nothing new. People have argued these points for centuries and no good answers seem to be found. I find it interesting and I’m sure to revisit it again but that’s not what this post is about. What this is more about in the necessity of pain. How we need pain in our everyday life in order for us to really be happy.

There was a philosopher who posed the mental experiment demonstrated in the movie The Matrix. The question was “if you could spend the rest of you life inside a machine that would give you everything you want, every pleasure imaginable and no pain ever would you choose to be hooked up to the machine?” The question cuts directly to the point. Can we truly choose a life without pain? Most people say no. Why? Because it’s not real. A life without pain is no life that we know. It would feel false and all the pleasure in the world could not make up for living a fake life in a vat of goo making you dream forever. In order for anything to have meaning it has to be real.

Pain therefore is necessary because it’s what makes us real. Pain is reality. Pain shows us that our life is real and that the choices we make have lasting consequences. How can he take full measure of our lives if there is only one state of being? The ups and downs, the horror and the beauty is what gives us perspective. What we see is the contrast of one thing against another. We cannot see joy without suffering. We cannot know love without apathy. We cannot have ecstasy without agony. And we cannot overcome evil if there is no evil to overcome. Strife above all else gives meaning to our lives. Having come though come though illness or war though makes those who do stronger happier people. They then enrich our lives with their life story. And though it’s hard to admit it we need suffering, we need evil, we need pain in order for life to have any meaning at all.

Why else do we like moves that make us cry? Isn’t the best kind of sex the kind that hurts a little? Why does absence makes the hear grow fonder. Why do we like to be scared in movies and on roller casters? We want these experiences because this is what it means to be alive. When people are about to die they say they felt more more alive then at the moment they were about to die. This is what it means to be real. Reality is gritty and uncomfortable, horrible and beautiful, sickening and enlightening. Life is more than we can ever come to understand, greater than ourselves, our knowledge, and our beliefs. After we;re dead and gone the world will still be here. We are. Nothing less will do. So this isn’t to say that we have to like pain, it’s to say that the real problem with pain is that we need it.

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